Many influencers, if not most, have fewer than 10,000 followers, a new survey reveals. Many consider free products in return for mentioning brands, and many earn only modest incomes from social media activities. Most place a priority on working with brands they believe in, according to a poll of 500 established influencers by influencer marketing platform Julius and Lippe Taylor, a digital marketing and public relations agency.
The 2018 State of Influencers Report indicates that a public relations strategy of developing relations and providing influencers with relevant, high-quality content may be more cost-effective than shelling out advertising dollars.
Money Not Always Necessary
Some of the findings from the survey include:
An overwhelming 94 percent of influencers said they have posted about a brand in return for a free product, service or experience. It’s a common practice for influencers to engage with brands for mutually beneficial exchanges rather than monetary compensation, the report notes.
While social media platforms such as Facebook now gain the most attention, blogs remain the third most valued platform to influencers after Instagram and YouTube.
Three-quarters of influencers say they always adhere to FTC guidelines on disclosing sponsorships, a sign that the industry is leaving the Wild West and moving more towards legitimacy and legality. It should be noted that FTC guidelines require influencers to acknowledge even small payments or free products or services on each posting about a product or service.
Almost 80 percent refuse to post about a brand they don’t believe in; almost 20 percent say it depends on the offer. In other words, most influencers remain dedicated to being authentic with their followers even as trust and faith in celebrity spokespeople is dwindling. Over half say they earn less than $20,000 annually. About 6 percent earn more than $100,000.
Almost half (48 percent) describe themselves as micro-influencers, with 500 to 10,000 followers. Many PR and marketing experts say micro-influencers offer an often-overlooked opportunity for brands, which tend to seek celebrities with millions of fans for considerable costs. While micro-influencers lack millions of fans, they tend to elicit loyalty and respect from followers.
Overcoming Obstacles to Influencer Marketing Outreach
Developing relationships with the right influencers without a solid advertising budget can be time consuming and labor intensive. In fact, identifying influencers with the right audience and posting style may be the most difficult influencer marketing challenge.
A social media monitoring and measurement service can identify ideal influencers for brands, what content they share, and how widely their content spreads across the internet. It’s essential to analyze influencer’s content and posting style to find if it aligns with your brand’s image. Consider what types of posts receive the most engagement and if top-performing posts are similar to content you desire. Analyze the demographics of their followers to determine if they match demographics of your targeted audience.
To develop strong relationships with influencers, seek creative approaches to compensation. Ponder how your organization can help influencers. Some ideas include: Help them reach more followers. Offer information and insights and content they can share with their followers. Dedicate advertising funds to boost their organic posts. Be personable and avoid selling. Send requests, not demands. And don’t attempt to automate the process. Influencers are different and have different preferences.
“When conducting influencer outreach, marketers tend to get bogged down with tactics,” writes B2B marketer Shayla Price for Kissmetrics. “They want more traffic, more likes, and more coverage. What they miss are the relationships.”
Instead of rushing to email them, first connect with them on social media, recommends digital media consultant Shane Barker. Start by following them or subscribing to their blog. Engage with their content by commenting and sharing, but avoid overdoing this. Mention them when you share their content so they know you’re interested in their content.
As the influencer marketing campaign continues, use a social media measurement service to gauge its effectiveness and determine its ROI.
Bottom Line: A new survey reveals the importance of relationships in influencer marketing. Income from sponsored posts isn’t the only consideration for most influencers — or even the most important one. Influencers prefer to work with brands they believe in and frequently engage with brands without monetary compensation. Because of that, a more traditional PR strategy of building relationships based on creating and distributing content may be more effective than advertising, especially among influencers with smaller numbers of followers.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.